The Best Kept Secret
"Strange, I thought, how you can be living your dreams and your nightmares at the very same time?"
― Ransom Riggs, Hollow City
"ppen..." Juniper squeaked, backing up from the window with a nervous grin. She tried not to side-eye her sister, but failed miserably when she could literally feel the eye roll going on.
Which Judy was absolutely doing alongside nervously tapping her foot on the passenger seat. "You were saying, June?"
Looking out, she didn't need a response for exactly what they saw in front of them.
The trip to the Hopps home went by without a hitch. It was relatively smooth and quiet and the sheriff didn't seem to mind the fox on board.
Judy and Nick struck up a conversation about what they'd be doing and the finer details on how he got covered with soap - he said it was a 'miscalculation'.
Either way, with him back in his green Pawaiian shirt and khakis - still soap smelling - he looked like his usual self. Aside from a bit of shedding fur.
When they finally arrived at the burrow, that's when all the trouble started. When they passed by the carrot field, it was completely vacant. An odd occurrence, even by their standards, but Judy kind of shrugged it off thinking that they were just beyond that and by their family tree.
However, when they drove past that and made it to the border of the south field, that's when Judy's jaw dropped.
What had to be all the bunnies in her family were there or around that part of the property, and then some - namely a giant white tigress, a pig and a few other members of their class were in their Bunnyscout uniforms among them.
Eye twitching at the scene, Judy slowly turned to her sister.
Juniper turned away, even scooching over a little as she nervously chuckled. "So I was wrong for once. Big deal."
Chamby, taking notice of how the two were debating on whether or not to get out of the car, made the decision for them. He knew something was up, but didn't want to draw attention. Kits always gettin' in trouble.
The Hopps family farm was huge. They owned quite a few acres of land that had been passed down from generation to generation. Beaten paths, side roads, the whole nine that came with owning property.
As such, the family had a road that allowed them to get to their south field easier. It was less developed than the other plots of farmland to allow it to be more natural and even blended in with the surrounding forest, strategically where the Hopps decided to put the berry patch.
Somewhere between sheer woodlands and farmland was where Chamby decided to park. It was close enough to the treeline as to remain out of sight to most and close enough to the farmland that they could be seen by many that were there.
He drew a deep breath upon rehearsing what he was here to do: talk with Bonnie. Well, that and hopefully keep things from getting out of hoof with a fox on their property. Last thing I need is 'nother Gideon mess. Judy better know what she's doin'.
Adjusting his shades, he cut off the engine and casually stepped out. He didn't want to stay too long as to not cause a mess, fully aware of how the Hopps family worked.
Tipping his hat to Judy, he told her his plan. "I'ma go see Bon right quick. So y'all may wanna get y'er pickin' done 'for I get back. I'll be droppin' Nick off after."
That said, he trotted off.
With only three of them in the car, it was a bit awkward. Two sisters currently at odds with one another over a 'plan' of action - none of it was a plan anymore, just a downhill derby off a cliff and into some jagged rocks - and a fox.
Judy wanted to sit back and think of what to do, but Juniper, ever the eager bunny, leapt into action first. She took her chance seconds after the sheriff left.
Hopping out of the back seat, she got out and only snickered at her dumbfounded sibling. "Well, y'all got y'er your basket," she informed, waving at them and pointing to the bunnies in the field. "I'll see what I can do 'round here."
Again, Judy was at a loss or words. "June wait! What could you possibly-"
Before she could argue more, the black-furred doe had disappeared, making a beeline towards their family.
Almost jumping after her, Judy's thoughts screamed at her for even being here in the first place. Nick was there along with all the Hopps bunnies instead of what she wanted: just the two of them. Juniper was probably going to bring a bunch of them along to see Nick, something that Judy didn't want, yet. And sheriff Chamby would probably be informing Bonnie and Stu that Nick was there as well.
Judy looked out the window and sighed. This is the worst that could happen.
Ears falling to her side, the doe simply awaited whatever disaster her sister would bring. Not that she'd help this time anyway.
From the moment that he saw this, Nick glanced down at her. He understood only a little about rabbit body language, and droopy ears weren't a good sign.
He looked curiously at where Juniper dashed off to. "You know, Carrots. I can't understand a word she says or a thing she does." A slow smile grew on his muzzle that eased Judy's mind.
Her shoulders relaxing, she chuckled at that. "You aren't the only one," she spoke truthfully, counting on each of her digits the number of mammals that could translate Junipers language and mentality. "Only my parents, my littermates, and Bartholomew can."
Nick nodded back, he didn't find it hard to believe.
While she could only watch on, Judy idly tapped her foot. Sure she and June were close, but they did get on each other's nerves often. It was either this that was happening now, or something else from time to time.
Like currently, June was hopping around, casually chatting with the family, probably telling them that Nick was here and that they should all see him and get Judy grounded for life or longer.
The black-furred doe started gathering more and more bunnies to follow her and... leading them away?
Judy couldn't believe it. Juniper, Molly, Sharla, and Mei - she couldn't tell which of the Swinton sisters that was, but the casual 'nonchalant and astute' posture told her that it was Nora, she could be wrong - were corralling the younger Hopps kits away from the berry patch; the older ones following suit towards the family tree.
Junipers lack of a plan finally made sense. This was their window, their distraction. Judy smiled, Nows our chance!
"C'mon, Blueberries!" she grabbed Nick's paw, forcefully kicking the door open and hopping out with him yelping in surprise.
They hit the ground running; the bunny practically dragging the fox with her as they raced deeper into the berry patch and out of sight.
It took Nick a few seconds to catch his breath, but a few minutes for his thoughts to catch up to him. Not just from the excitement of being here - dashing about a hundred yards didn't help - but the fact that Judy invited him over.
Prey never did that for him.
One paw in hers, and the other on the basket, they trecked further onto the Hopps home.
It surprised him that, once they made it past the treeline, there were rows of bushes just barely taller than he himself. He was again completely mesmerized by the landscape and couldn't help but drink in its beauty.
The well-tilled earth beneath him was soft, slightly damp and cool in the spring air. He could smell the leaves and berries that were passed by with each step, it all reminded him of the markets back home and how he'd usually flock to the produce section. Though now it was a much fresher aroma.
Being its own garden, he was amazed at how the rows of berries blended in with the surrounding trees and made it feel far more natural than any farmland he had ever seen. It reminded him of the garden back at school: serene, well kept, fragrant, and green as far as the eye can see. All that was missing was half the student body.
Most of them, anyway. He and Judy were there and that was all that mattered.
Nick had rarely been fascinated by much in the city anymore. Same concrete walkways, same downtrodden parks, same graffiti, same friends, same enemies, same cops, mobs, and riots... same hospital visits.
Here, though, this was something new, something profound.
Glancing around like a kit at a candy store, he inquired. "This is where you live?"
Judy giggled. It was a silly question to her, but one she didn't fail to answer. "Well, we don't live outside. But, this is one of our family farm's fields."
She let go of his paw once they were deep enough in so she could scout ahead. It was a short jog from the raspberry patch to the blueberry one.
"We grow all of our berries here." She trotted a few steps away to look around for stragglers that were called in. When she could neither see nor hear any, she walked backward, taking stock of what they had. "Blueberries, raspberries, and a few others when they're in season."
Nodding to the selection, Nick gave a bright smile as they brushed by the aforementioned raspberries. Red, ripe, and ready for picking, the raspberry bushes glistened and waved at him as he passed by.
His mind went blank as he thought of a white fox running to and fro, devouring every berry there. He'd definitely have to tell Judy to watch out if the doe and vixen ever became friends. Skye would love this place.
It didn't take long for Judy to lead them to the blueberry patches. As blueberries were so prominent, they had a few more rows than the others that meant cover for them was easier. Though with the recent harvest, the bushes they'd be picking from would be near the open field, but just deep enough for them not to be seen.
And thankfully dad likes to stagger them, Judy told herself as she checked to see if anyone was there in the small parting between the patches.
Nobunny there, she quickly waved the still stunned fox over, both slipping by undetected into the foliage. She kept going until she was absolutely sure that they were completely hidden a few rows into the berry patch.
This was about when Nick's senses were kicked into overdrive, he'd never seen blueberries this ripe before. Tall, green-leafed bushes with round blue fruit completely surrounded him.
Standing in front of the blueberry bush, the fox licked his chops. He started to reach out to one of the 'oh so delicious' fruits only to be stopped by Judy shouting, "Wait!"
Halted from his lifelong dream of the last half-hour, Nick gave her a pleading, albeit curious look.
"Hold on a sec." She went around sniffing a few, thoroughly inspecting them bush by bush with expert speed and efficiency. In a few seconds, she stopped at a row just a few feet away, scrutinizing it more than the others.
"I think..." The bunny reached out and plucked off one of the berries of each bush. She examined them like a gemologist looking for any flaw. Pleased when she saw nothing wrong, she smiled and trotted over. "Here, try these."
Taking the berries out of her paw without question and carefully nibbling on a few at a time to truly savour the taste, the fox's eyes grew wide with revelation. The basket dropped out of his grip.
The berries he ate as a gift last week were admittedly the best he had in his whole life. They were sweet, tangy, and had so much of the natural flavour that he wouldn't dare go back to the knockoff stuff bought at a store.
That being said, these straight off the bush, bunny farm raised, sun dancing, deep-blue blueberries were... perfect.
Wordlessly, he knelt down and fervently tore at the bush. Pawful after pawful, he ate the blueberries with gusto, even managing to bite on a few of the leaves with him in his venture.
So enthralled he was with the task that Judy took a step back. She didn't want to interrupt this moment of bliss as the red fox started to become blue before her very eyes.
Reaching out for another pawful and giving exasperations about the taste, he questioned her. "Mmm! You think I might be able to sleep out here?"
"What?" Judy shot back in a mix of confusion and worry.
Surely he didn't mean that when he'd get caught and then her whole family would be furious.
Totally not her fault.
Pausing only to place a few berries in his shirt pocket for a snack later, Nick casually answered.
"I have a lawn chair and a pair of sunglasses," he informed, finally given the chance to actually have the luxury of a lawn to use alongside the chair on the patio. He turned to her with a smirk. "I can make it a spa day."
Seeing his blue muzzle and partially blue stained shirt, Judy laughed at his humor and shook her head. "Wouldn't you need a spa for that?"
Crossing his arms, he tutted. "I find blueberries therapeutic. Thank you very much."
"You're gonna look like one someday." With a giggle, she walked around a few other bushes to ensure that he'd be out of sight, she trotted off to keep watch. "Pick as many as you want, I'll be right back."
With a nod of approval of him, Judy went back to sentry duty.
Carefully searching around, Judy smiled to herself. This is going by surprisingly well.
Juniper managed to keep her family at bay, nobody showed up, Nick was well hidden. All seemed like it was according to plan.
The bunny laughed to herself. June was right, for once. What was the worst that can ha-
-ppen, Judy stopped cold in her tracks as she knew that voice. Oh, how she regretted that she knew that voice!
It was much like her own, a voice so very identical that it was nearly impossible to know the difference in tonality. A voice that made her cringe, a voice that made her gasp, and a voice that made her scream, "JASMINE?!"
Sure enough, it was that sister of hers. The off-white bunny, clad in only shorts and a skimpy spring shirt - Judy was surprised that she was allowed out of the house like that, or allowed anywhere in general - came stomping through the berry patch, fury evident in her green eyes.
Judy took a step back.
If she found out that Nick was here, there would be trouble. A different kind of trouble than if her parents found out anything yet; she still had that looming over her. So, in order to not look suspicious, she composed herself and crossed her arms; a Junior Deputy didn't show fear.
Her sibling in her eyesight and alone, Jasmine got closer and grit her teeth. "I know what you're up to, and it's not gonna work."
Judy felt her nose twitch out of fear. She knows?! she told herself before nearly letting the act drop. "W-what do you mean?"
Jasmine crossed her arms. "You and the fox!"
OH NO! SHE KNOWS! "Jasmine I-uh... i-it's not what you think! I-"
"That little 'date' of yours?" Jasmine sneered, leaning over to see her sister's face contort in a mix of emotions. "That didn't count! Jack said all you did was get ice-cream with him."
Judy blinked. "I... uh... what?"
Jasmine pointed an accusatory finger. "Let's get one thing straight, Judith. If anyone's gonna share a kiss with him, it's gonna be me!"
Eye twitching as Judy had no clue what was going on in her sibling's mind, she recounted yesterday. All she did was go out with Nick and get ice-cream. A friendly outing on a Friday, what could they have thought that it was? Wait, does she think that we're-
"You mean it's gonna be me, Jas!" another voice rang out, catching both bunnies off-guard.
The two sisters craned turned to their side to see their other littermate casually strolling through, arms crossed and her features easygoing, almost careless.
"JADA?!" the two said in unison, Judy taking a step further back. Great! This is all your fault, June! If they find that Nick's here, then it's gonna be you and me on Boxing Day!
Unlike Judy, Jasmine took a step forward; already waving off her close sibling. "Back off, Jada! I saw him first!"
Jada smirked, "Make me!"
There was a tense silence between the three of them. While Jada and Jasmine stared daggers at one another, Judy was worried that Nick would overhear them. Thankfully, she was far enough away that he shouldn't, but with everything crumbling, she didn't doubt that it was a matter of time.
Before long, Jada sneered and turned her focus to Judy. "And you," she began, narrowing her eyes before trotting away back to the family tree. "I'm the oldest, so I get first dibs."
Now just the two of them, Jasmine slowly turned her focus back to Judy. "I don't care what she says, or what you say," despite the similarities in their voices, for a moment, this bunny didn't sound like Judy. "that kiss is mine."
And with that, Jasmine slowly slunk back from whence she came. The tips of her ears brushed by the berry bushes on her way out.
All that was left was a stunned and deeply relieved Judy.
While baffled from the exchanges and sighing that it was all over, she hoped that, for once today, something would go right.
Things were going great!
Nick had practically gotten the hang of picking berries over the past minute or two - an expert to his knowledge. Take a few off the bush, eat half, and put the other half in the basket, eat that half in the basket, and try again until the basket's full.
Rinse and repeat.
He was having the time of his life.
Happily munching on as many berries as he could, he recounted the day. Everything from his awakening, boredom, want to explore the woodlands around his secluded home, almost attempt to call Judy, raiding the fridge, the horrible laundry experience, and even now.
The early day was mundane, but this was too good to be true. He was on a farm owned by bunnies. Not only that, but he was invited to eat all the berries - which he finally managed to put a few in the basket - that he wanted.
Each delightful chew made him think more and more of how folks here were different. June's hard to understand he told himself, and it was impossible to deny as Judy told him that only a few mammals understood her.
Then there were her other sisters: Jada and Jasmine. He still cringed when he remembered them. And there was Jack also, but... he was a bit odd.
Shorin and Lu are kind of odd, too, he mused. That was an odd thing even now to think that a sheep and a wolf would be related. Adopted or not.
Some of his other new acquaintances like Sharla, Dawn, and others needed more time for him to examine.
Chamby seems okay... for a cop, His tail lightly brushed against the dirt as he slowed his pace. Then there's Eliot and Chloe. I have no clue why that wolf is the way he is, and what exactly is a thylacine?
He had so many questions. But, in the end, he settled on just one, if they're nothing like city folk, then what about Judy's parents?If she was anything like them, then they had to be practically saints. As he continued to mull over this and fill the basket, he felt a slight tug on his tail along with a tiny, squeak of a giggle.
A bit stunned at first - also a bit rude - Nick sought to correct this faux pas as. He figured Judy was just messing with him like yesterday and their 'kiss'.
He smiled, slowly turning around. "Alright, Carrots. You should know that you never pull a fox's taiiiillll..."
Drawling out the last word, Nick was even more stunned at who he was face to face with.
There stood in front of him a light-brown bunny kit, dressed in a blue shirt and spring skirt with a flowery pattern. The little bunny looked up to him like he was the most fascinating thing she had ever seen.
Clutched in her paws was his bushy, brownish red tail that she excitedly studied, even as far as putting her ear to it as if it spoke to her. All she managed to do was pluck a few strands of fur out.
Suffice to say, this wasn't Judy. Not unless she got a lot smaller somehow. Still had that bright smile. So still cute.
Nick tilted his head in wonder. "Uh... hi?"
"Are you here to play tag?" asked the kit, finally having her attention caught and tilting her head up to show her bright, lime-green eyes.
Knelt down and mere inches away from the bunny, Nick didn't know what to say. If she was there to play tag, then there had to be others.
However, before he could make any further assumption, she reached up and tapped the tip of his nose with her paw. "You're it!"
Taken aback, his ears perked up as she did this with a shrill giggle and a short hop to follow it.
What it was with the Hopps family being unafraid of foxes was beyond him, but he wasn't complaining.
Not only that, but he would admit: he wasn't good with kits. Having suffered through that once himself - and several times over with Skye - that phase of his life was, well, awkward.
Still, somehow, this brought a smile to his face. He thought quick, faux gasping and pointing behind her before she could run away. "What's that?"
Sure enough, the bunny turned around, falling for the bait. "Huh?"
Ever so lightly, he tapped his paw to her ears and said, "Sorry little, bunny. But looks like you're it again."
That made her stop and turn back to him as he leaned over her smiling. Figuring out what just happened, she padded over and quietly examined what creature this was more.
Before he could think, the bunny had hopped onto his shoulder, latching onto him and making him stumble back a bit. Bunnies here were somehow fearless.
"Mr. Eliot has ears like this," she commented, folding Nick's ear and laughing at how it flickered back and at her. "He and Grampa showed me how to ride a bike once."
Regaining his balance and standing, Nick held her up, careful as to ensure she didn't fall. "Is that so?"
He could see and even feel her excitedly nod and continue to try to re-shape his ears.
Never in his life did he imagine this. Sure he didn't mind bunnies and his mother LOVED the all bunny band "Warren", he could never forget that concert of theirs he took her to. But this? He was at a loss of what to do or say.
So, all he could do was look around for her family in hopes of getting her back to them.
Thankfully, he didn't have to wait long. A rustle of leaves just to his side caught his attention as a familiar doe scrambled towards him.
"Cotton?!" Judy shrieked, already running full speed towards her niece.
This wasn't going according to plan.
She reached the kit, immediately holding out her ams and allowing Nick to hand her over to hold her close. It wasn't that she was afraid that Nick would harm her, but more so the opposite: that Cotton would get them both in trouble.
"Aunt Judy," the gleeful kit called back, nestling her aunt's cheek cheerfully before she leaned back to the stranger with a curious look in her eye. "Who is he?"
Of course she had to ask that, Judy told herself, already preparing for the worst when she told the rest of the family.
But, before she could try and divert Cotton's attention away from Nick to make an explanation, the little bunny leaned up and whispered into her ear. "He looks like Mr. Eliot."
Judy leaned back to glance at her before turning to Nick with a raised brow. Despite being vulpine, he did have the typical canid frame.
From that, Judy's eyes went wide. The thing was, while Cotton knew that he existed, but didn't know what Nick was.
Maybe this will work.
"Cotton, I'd like you to meet my friend, Nick," Judy introduced, shuffling the bubbly kit to her shoulders. "Nick, this is my niece, Cotton."
"Hi Mr. Nick." the little bunny greeted with a smile and a wave.
Chuckling and waving back to her, Nick replied, "Hello there, Cottonpuff."
She gasped in reply, "Gramma calls me that!"
With the giggling kit on her shoulder and Nick pandering to her curiosity, Judy knew this was going alright. Sure she may tell everyone that she saw Nick, but she didn't know what a fox was.
Happy that this was going by okay, Judy drew in a deep breath. "Alright, let's get you back to the others."
She allowed Cotton to give him a parting wave before they headed back to the field. As they were only a few rows away, it wasn't too far for them to walk.
Passing by the last row of the berry patch, Judy had seen most of her family a good distance away under the tree. They were all enjoying their time and it looked like Pop-pop was there telling a story.
She would have lingered on it more had one bunny not been quickly pacing towards her: her mother.
Clad in her Bunnyscout Troop Leader uniform, Bonnie waved at Judy and Cotton as she greeted them.
"MOM!" the younger doe shrieked, instinctively walking towards her mother in hopes to cover her tracks and keep Nick hidden. "W-what are you doing here?"
"Trying to find our little Cottonpuff," she replied worriedly as Judy set the kit in question down. "I told you that tag was over."
Rocking on her feet and smiling sheepishly, Cotton pointed towards the berry patch. "But I tagged Mr. Nick."
For about the hundredth time that day, Judy looked like a deer in headlights. Only, this time, the bemused look on her mothers face may have just matched her own.
She knew that Cotton would say something soon, but not this soon.
However, despite this, Bonnie didn't seem upset at all.
"Why didn't you tell me you were bringing your friend over?" the matronly doe asked, pacing closer and standing on the tips of her toes to see head or fur of the mysterious mammal. From Judy's guilty grin, she knew that something was up.
And when she scanned the bushes, she sighed. It was at times like this that she didn't like the fact that they staggered the berry patches so that you couldn't see the other rows.
She reached out for Cotton's paw before calling out, "Hello there, Nick." After, she kept her ears standing to hear anything. Well, anything other than that squeak of surprise and constant whispers of "no" from Judy.
After a few seconds, an even-toned voice called back. "Hi, Mrs. Hopps."
He was only a few rows in.
She took a few steps towards him to formally greet the mysterious mammal; she was hospitable, after all.
Seeing this, Judy leapt in front of her mother, arms outstretched and a horrified look on her face. Met with a quizzical look before her, she had to make up an excuse. Something, anything to keep this secret a secret.
"He's, uh... kinda shy?" she whispered, hoping that her mother would agree and that Nick wouldn't just walk out and ruin more of Juniper's bad idea.
Bonnie only gave her daughter a questionable look before mouthing a quick 'okay'.
Judy let her arms fall in relief... which didn't last long as yet another bunny hopping their way made what was left of her sanity.
"Heya Bon, Jude. I see ya found her." said Stu, adjusting his hat and brushing off a few leaves from his shirt.
Judy squeaked in shock. "DAD?!"
Paws grasping on the buttons of his suspenders, Stu trotted towards his family. He had a bit of a pep in his step as he always enjoyed being outdoors and seeing the progress of his farm. After embracing Bonnie and giving Cotton a quick hug, he gave his daughter a puzzled stare. "Jude, what's all the shoutin' for? You start a fire again?"
While Stu was only half joking, he really hoped that that wasn't the case this time.
Bonnie concurred with a sigh, she never agreed with any of their nicknames. "No, Stu. Judy just brought her friend from school. Y'know," she then leaned over and whispered. "The one somebunny has been talking about a lot?"
She hiked a thumb towards the berry patch as her husband's eyes brightened. "Oh?"
"Well, why didn't ya say so?" he asked with an ever-widening smile. He turned to the berry bushes and called out, "Nick, you in there?"
A second later, he got his response, "Hi Mr. Hopps."
Chuckling and pressing forward to put a face to the mammal, Stu thought of everything he had to say to Nick. He only stopped when Bonnie gently tapped his shoulder.
The look she gave him told him to go no further.
Baffled by her stopping him, he asked her, "What? He's a friend of Jude's."
With a stern look in her eyes, Bonnie waved her paw to deter him. "You remember how shy you were before and when you were first grafted into the family?"
"Alright, alright," he complied, knowing that Bonnie was right. Back then, he shuddered to think of his new life as a Hopps. Now, he looked back on those days and it gave him a good laugh.
So, instead of pressing forward, he just talked to Nick as if he were his own. "How you likin' the burrows, son?"
There was a slight pause and a rustle of leaves. "They are absolutely beautiful, sir."
Stu nodded. The burrows were a great place, nothing like the city.
"And this fine berry patch might be the best place here," Nick continued, whistling as he sounded like he had a mouth full of berries. "Is there some secret recipe to making them taste this good? I'm thinking about growing a few. Few thousand, maybe."
Laughing, the buck waved his paw dismissively. He went on in an even, half-joking tone. "Oh no you don't, Nicky. That's a Hopps family secret."
Bonnie rolled her eyes. Not even a minute after meeting Nick, and Stu was already doling out nicknames.
"So... I'd have to be in the family to learn it?"
"Is this your way of proposing to one of my daughters?"
Judy's face was as red as the tomatoes they grew - probably redder. "DAD!"
"Oh, come on, Judes, he's clearly interested," Stu rebutted with a deeper laugh than he usually had. "In fact Nick, I think I may know a bunny about your age that may just say yes. She's been talkin' about you all day."
He gave his daughter a wink and a thumbs up of approval - her jaw dropped.
Both Judy and Nick replied in unison, "Really?!"
"Only all day?" Bonnie turned to her mate with a bit of disbelief. "Stu, she's been talking about him since they met. You'd think that the two were childhood friends."
Judy shuddered. W-what? I don't... what?
Stu nodded. "Well, you have our permission to go out with her. Supervised, of course."
Forget tomato red, Judy was practically scarlet now. "Dad!"
"Right, right," He waved her off, laughing at her embarrassment, but wondering why she was so flustered. Still, there was one last thing he had to say. "And Nick... if you ever thought about bein' grafted into the family, just let us know. We never named one of our kits Nick, so a Nick Hopps would be a great addition."
Judy's brain frizzled while she heard coughing coming from the bushes. Nick said that he was fine, though.
As their conversation settled down and the voice behind the bushes regained its composure, the Hopps parents bid their goodbyes.
"You're also invited for dinner with us!" Bonnie added as she and Stu each held one of Cotton's paws while they trotted away. "Bring the family if they're hungry!"
Now that they had gone away and left Judy completely stupified, horrified, and feeling like this was all her sister's fault - which it absolutely was - she held her arms to the side and ambled back towards Nick.
She was mortified from her parents being this close to him without them knowing that he was a fox. In retrospect, this was a terrible idea and she had half a mind to tackle Juniper to the ground for even forming the thought to put it into action.
When she reached him, Nick looked equally horrified in a bit of a different way. His tail was frizzled and he had a nervous, guilty grin plastered across his muzzle. The full of blueberries was beside him as he scratched the nape of his neck.
Both blankly stared at one another as they tried to form words. Bonnie and Stu's advice and insight really caught them off-guard.
It took Nick a little bit for him to clear his throat and respond. "Well... Carrots. This... uh... this has been great!"
She nodded fervently, adding more to her growing headache. "Yeah, yeah. It's... it's been, uh... yeah."
"Yeah, yeah." he agreed, trying not to bite his tongue from how he was grinning. He turned away from her to the basket, remembering how the sheriff would drop him back home.
He pointed to it. "I'm just gonna-"
She waved her paws. "Oh, right, right."
Seeing that he got his basket full, she lead him out of the berry patches and back to the squad car.
As he hopped into the back seat, he bid her farewell as he waited for the sheriff to return. Judy, likewise, said goodbye and made her way back to the family tree.
She was stopped midway by a few of the fellow Bunnyscout members making their way towards the house. One of which, she had to laugh at.
"Hey Judy!" Molly called, waddling with each step, covered from head to toe with excitable bunnies using her as a climbing wall. Judy could only guess what was going through their minds.
Molly's mind though?
"Check out my sweet bunny armor!" The tigress raised her arms, getting excitable squeals and cheers from Judy's nieces and nephews.
She shook her head with a laugh. "Hey Molly."
Now in a 't' stance, the tigress asked her. "Having fun with Nick?"
Blinking, Judy's ears stood at attention. "Molly, how did you-"
"Tallfescue..." the tigress interrupted.
Judy facepawed. "Right..."
She forgot: Molly was the tallest mammal here, it'd be easy for her to see him. Though Ms. Tallfescue was definitely taller.
As several of the bunnies took refuge on her head and started to trace her stripes, Molly continued. "Other than that, I can smell him, you know."
Thankful that she didn't say anything and hoping that she wouldn't mention it anytime soon, Judy looked around for the rest of the Bunnyscouts. Their meeting was soon, and she had to get into uniform.
Several of them were scattered around the farm either chatting with her siblings or among themselves. She still didn't see which Swinton sister was there, but she'd see if they were all here this week or not.
One scout, however, casually strode towards her: Juniper. She was trailed by Bonnie, and Stu with Cotton joyfully bounding around them.
When Bonnie came close enough, she waved and called to her grandkits. "Alright, kids, time to let Molly go. Our meeting starts in ten minutes."
"Aww..." they all protested, but knew that their grandma could easily get them down if she wanted to.
Out of them all, Molly looked the most distressed, almost distraught. "But... my bunny biker helmet!"
Bonnie looked up to the much taller predator and waved her finger with a smile. "Molly, you know your father would never allow you to have a motorcycle."
It was true, Mr. Tallfescue was overprotective. However, Molly did have other family members that might say yes. "My aunt would, though."
"And your uncle would refuse to help get you one."
Left with one option, she decided to ask her mother later. It'd probably be a "go ask your father and see how he panics and says no but still loves you" kind of interaction.
Her mother and father just talking to the kits and June beside her, Judy finally let herself relax. From all the crazy that happened earlier, she could finally say that Junipers plan really did work - conniption aside.
Taking this all in, they all saw Chamby's patrol car as it slowly rolled by. The sheriff gave them a wave and honk of the horn while Nick waved at them from the back seat.
Judy returned the gesture, but heard her parents talking just behind her.
"Did you see that, Bon?" asked Stu, his voice a bit more stern than usual.
"See what?" came her mother's voice.
"Looks like Chamby just arrested that fox."
Judy chocked, June laughed, their mother sighed.
Cotton, however, cheered, "Gramma, Grampa, look! It's Mr. Nick!"
Both of the elder bunnies looked towards the car in an attempt to see the rabbit that they invited into the family.
Squinting and tilting his hat, Stu spoke first. "I can't see him, Cottonpuff. Musta just missed him."
"Hmm..." Bonnie looked at the squad car, scrutinizing the mammals she could see.
Shrugging, Stu re-adjusted his suspenders and started to head back. "I tell ya, they never do right."
Taking one last look and raising a brow, Bonnie held Cotton's paw as she went back to the burrow.
Glad that neither had turned to see her eye twitching, Judy re-reevaluated the day and came to only one conclusion: it was all Junipers fault.
As Bonnie and Stu walked off with Cotton hopping around them, Judy slowly craned her neck to see the other amethyst eyed doe. She looked incredibly pleased with her work, even as to clap her paws in satisfaction.
"Thanks, June." As much as she hated to admit it, that bunny did save the day... almost.
Soaking in the compliment, Juniper shrugged in mock humility. "Weren't nothin'. But my plan ain't work as I wanted." her sister commented.
"How's that?" Judy inquired.
Folding her arms and beaming with pride, she answered her sister. "I was gonna get a bunch of us to go see him before he up'n left."
The second she said this, Judy froze. This whole time, Juniper was going to sabotage her. To drag her family out and meet the fox and probably get her grounded for life or longer.
Judy didn't know what she was seeing, but it was almost pure red as her paws quivered.
"Ah well. Looks like y'er big sister still did good," boasted Juniper. She closed her eyes and crossed her arms to reminisce. "See, Jude, I told ya. What's the worst tha-"
And that's when Juniper Hopps was relentlessly tackled to the ground.
Can dreams ever really be kept a secret?